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Gay Vancouver man demands answers from Olympic organizers

Homophobic harassment at opening ceremonies rehearsal left unaddressed, he says

Credit: Flickr, Matt May, user mcmay, Creative Commons licence 2.0

A gay Vancouver man wants to know what the Olympic organizing committee is going to do about the 20-minute verbal and physical homophobic onslaught he endured at the Feb 8 opening ceremonies rehearsal.

Tyler Sheppard says he received no help from Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics (VANOC) ushers, security or police.

Now, he says, he has seen a lawyer and is considering legal action against VANOC for failing to ensure the venue was safe.

He has also filed a report with the Vancouver Police Department.

Sheppard says a woman who incorrectly insisted he and his friends were sitting in her seats repeatedly called him and his friends “fucking faggots.”

“My friends heard it. A lot of people heard it,” Sheppard says. “It was demoralizing.”

Sheppard says the abuse continued even after ushers determined Sheppard and his friends were in the right seats.

They were there to see a friend dance in the opening ceremonies. But the woman kept kicking their seats after they sat down, Sheppard says.

She even muttered insults in his ear during the singing of “O Canada,” he alleges.

“She kicked me in the back with her foot which left a red mark,” he says. “If I was a man doing this to a woman, there would have been repercussions. What I want is fairness.

“The Olympics are supposed to be for everyone,” he says.

Sheppard is still waiting for somebody from VANOC to return his calls about the incident.

“(VANOC) is ultimately the one that’s running the show. It falls on their liability,” the 25-year-old commercial insurance agent says.

“No one gets to hit me — man or woman,” he adds.

VANOC has a duty to ameliorate such situations, agrees David Eby of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

“It’s weird that there are so many police officers everywhere, including inside the venues, that police weren’t involved,” Eby says.

What’s more, he says, VANOC should be able track the woman through her seat number.

“He may be able to find the woman and sue her,” Eby suggests.

VANOC declined to comment on the alleged incident.

The Vancouver Police Department confirms it has an assault report on an incident at BC Place but has no suspect.

The information has also been forwarded to the VPD Diversity Relations Section, says Const Anne Longley.

“If more information comes to light that would identify the person responsible for the assault, then their information/evidence would form part of the investigation to determine the motive for the assault,” police said in a statement.

Sheppard says he has the woman’s seat number. He also has a photograph of the woman and at least four witnesses to the alleged abuse.

He believes if VANOC and police want to find out who was issued the tickets for the woman’s seat, they probably could.

In order to get into an Olympic venue, tickets must be scanned at exterior security screening points manned by Contemporary Security Canada and overseen by police officers. Ushers then check tickets again inside and direct people to their seats.

The VPD suggested Xtra West contact VANOC ticketing but did not comment on Sheppard having the seat number.

Sheppard says he gave an officer the number of the seat the woman was sitting in.

Sheppard adds that he attended the opening ceremonies rehearsal with a friend who arrived two weeks ago from Chile. The friend was not spared the woman’s wrath either.

Sheppard says the woman grabbed the Chilean’s bag and threw it. He told her to leave it alone.

Sheppard says the woman’s response was to shriek, “I’m not crazy, you fucking immigrant. Go back to your country.”

Sheppard admits he called the woman a “bitch,” and told her if she did not stop the abuse he would defend himself.

He says his complaints to the usher did not result in security or police being called.

“They did nothing,” he repeats.

“VANOC has done nothing.”